Tag Archives: Austmine

Austmine and BHP strengthen METS sector ties

Austmine says it and BHP have announced a strategic partnership focused on bringing people and resources together to “maximise value-chain opportunities and further strengthen the competitiveness of the Australian METS and mining sectors”.

The three-year partnership will see BHP actively involved with Austmine through nationwide industry events, webinars, visits to BHP operations and other innovation projects, according to Austmine.

Austmine is a leading not-for-profit industry association for the Australian mining equipment, technology and services (METS) sector with over 600 members nationally.

BHP Group Procurement Officer, Sundeep Singh, said the partnership was about breaking down barriers to access.

“Midway through last year, we brought together a group of representatives from across the Australian METS sector including Austmine to understand the challenges and opportunities in engaging with our business,” he said.

“After hearing the perspectives of the sector, we have since worked with Austmine to design a partnership which will build relationships between the Australian METS sector and BHP personnel at multiple levels.

“We hope this increased access will increase our adoption of technological innovations from around the country and also provide an opportunity to test supply chain improvements through Austmine.”

A recent Austmine member survey indicated it was difficult to do business with Tier One miners, particularly for small firms, the company said.

Austmine’s CEO, Chris Gibbs Stewart, said: “The smaller the company, the more difficult it is to get their foot in the door. Our partnership will enhance communications, build trust and make it easier to do business with BHP.

“We have a world-class METS sector which has a global reputation for problem solving, innovative solutions and advanced technology. Working with BHP in close collaboration, we will no doubt take this reputation to the next level.”

The partnership will contribute to Austmine’s goal of championing the Australian METS sector as global innovation leader and providing growth opportunities to members, Austmine added.

Community engagement and automation on the AIMEX agenda

Day one of AIMEX 2019 in Sydney, Australia, was as varied as mining events come. Against an exhibition backdrop that organisers say included more than 500 suppliers, leaders in the industry took to the conference stage to debate some of the industry hottest topics.

The morning sessions started off with discussions on the relationship between the mining sector and local stakeholders, an area of dialogue that becomes more dynamic with every mining, extraction or water use permit issued in Australia.

Stephen Galilee, Chief Executive Officer of the New South Wales (NSW) Minerals Council, was the first speaker to confront the topic and was, rightly, keen to talk up some of the success stories that the state had seen in the recent past.

He said the NSW Minerals Council addressed local community’s priorities through its Upper Hunter Mining Dialogue project, which he believes is one of the world’s best engagement community practices.

A panel, chaired by Austmine CEO Christine Gibbs-Stewart, followed shortly after Galilee and expanded on this line of discussion, with Mark Jacobs, Executive General Manager – Environment & Community, Yancoal Australia, and Ngaire Baker, External Relations Manager of Mach Energy, providing specific examples of how their companies have developed a working relationship with not just the communities surrounding their mines, but also interested parties within the states in which they operate.

Jacobs said the digital age and transparency of reporting has brought miners a lot closer to the communities that surround them than, say, 20 years ago, but he admitted Yancoal Australia and his peers in Australia needed to do more to rebuild the trust that was lost in previous decades. He added that local media played a strong role in this quest.

Baker, meanwhile, recalled several anecdotes about how Mach Energy was building strong community relationships by effectively communicating how the mining company was going about its business of starting up the Mount Pleasant thermal coal mine in the Hunter Valley, explaining what effects this might have on local businesses, as well as inviting them to the operation to gain a better understanding of the mine.

Jacobs and Baker made compelling points, but Anna Littleboy, Programme Leader – Mine Lifecycles, Sustainable Minerals Institute, University of Queensland, made it clear the success of a mine or project was contingent on not only winning over the local community.

“I’m not sure the image of the industry is made or broken at the community level,” she said.

The Adani Carmichael coal project, in the Bowen Basin of Queensland, is a case in point, where local stakeholders have made it clear they would like the thermal coal development to go ahead, but issues on a national and international level have made it increasingly difficult to proceed. This is despite the company recently receiving a significant permit to proceed with construction.

Before the panel discussion ended, the speakers talked about what impact technology may have on local communities, with Gibbs-Stewart questioning what mine site communities could look like in an autonomous future where people no longer operated the machines.

The panellists said these communities could potentially become technology hubs servicing such operations, but Jacobs remarked that local and state governments needed to ensure the infrastructure was in place to allow such a transition to take place.

The next few conference sessions picked up the automation ball and ran with it.

Craig Hurkett, Managing Director, Enterprise Improvement Solutions, explored the challenges and opportunities that came with delivering autonomous vehicle maintenance. His talk touched on just how expensive the current fleet of autonomous machines were to keep running at full tilt.

Robin Burgess-Limerick, Professorial Research Fellow at the University of Queensland, took a different angle in his presentation: ‘Human-systems integration for the safe introduction of automation to mines and quarries’.

He made it clear that automation would change the established safety systems in place at both open-pit and underground mines. He also touched on some accidents that had occurred both above and below ground when autonomous equipment came into contact with either personnel or manned vehicles, but then countered this with details of a past paper he had co-authored on operations at the Northparkes underground mine in New South Wales where the use of autonomous vehicles had seen significant safety improvements as well as a 23% productivity boost compared with previous manual mode.

Factoring this in, he said mining companies and equipment manufacturers needed to ensure that autonomous equipment was designed for the specific operation it was going into and that manual overrides were not used as a workaround to improve productivity – which in the underground US coal mine example he gave resulted in a fatality.

It was then the turn of Dr Joe Cronin, Co-Founder, Australian Droid + Robot, on stage. Cronin, who has helped design autonomous underground systems at both Northparkes and the Syama underground mine (Mali), was positive automation was coming to mining at a pace that would catch many industry participants off guard; meaning they needed to invest to facilitate this change now.

His talk, ‘Using Telepresence technologies for the safe deployment of wireless mesh networks and underground inspection robots in mines’, focused on the improved communications infrastructure in mines and ability for robots and drones to travel into increasingly difficult areas of a mine. This, he said, would see risky tasks currently carried out by people, in the future, taken on by these machines.

Personnel would no longer need to travel underground to carry out sampling in active stopes, with these robust and agile robots able to give them the information they needed through payloads that could carry out 3D scans, take high resolution photos, sense dangerous gases and interpret potential rock falls.

This would not only increase safety underground, it would also allow autonomous operations to run 24/7, according to Cronin, with these robots working unimpeded alongside autonomous equipment.

Reflecting on the proliferation of drones in the open-pit mining space, Cronin estimated that in five years’ time, every underground mine would be using robots or drones to inspect hazardous areas of their mines.

Southern Innovation extends minerals analysis agreement with BHP

Technology company Southern Innovation says it has entered into a multi-year collaboration agreement with BHP to further research applications of the METS company’s radiation-based minerals analysis technology.

Under the agreement Southern Innovation will provide BHP with technical expertise to uncover solutions to specific challenges BHP faces in mineral exploration and extraction, the company said.

Southern Innovation and BHP have worked together since late 2015 to develop and commercialise technology to improve the performance of radiation-based analysis in mining applications, using a complex signal-processing algorithm developed by Southern Innovation Founder Paul Scoullar at The University of Melbourne.

BHP Vice President of Technology Global Transformation, Rag Udd, said: “Our continuing engagement with the METS sector ensures that our industry successfully adapts to technological change while creating and sustaining global technological and skills leadership in key areas of mining and our supply chain.

“An internationally competitive, appropriately skilled and innovative METS sector is critical to help maintain Australia’s leading position in the global resources sector.”

Southern Innovation’s CEO and Managing Director, David Scoullar, said: “We are delighted to formalise our ongoing relationship with BHP to further research applications of our radiation-based minerals analysis technology to meet challenges across BHP’s domestic and international commodity portfolio.

“Our engagement with BHP over the last three years has successfully developed new-to-world METS technology and products in Australia and enabled us to double our workforce. With this new research and ongoing product development work, we will be adding even more employees dedicated to this task with a view to redoubling our workforce over two years.”

Industry body for the METS sector, Austmine, has been supporting Southern Innovation since 2015 through the Australian Technologies Competition and the Accelerating Commercialisation Program with the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, and more recently with grant funding via the Entrepreneurs’ Programme.

Austmine CEO, Christine Gibbs Stewart, said: “It’s critically important that emerging METS companies can access customers, funding, expertise and networks to enable the development and commercialisation of disruptive technologies in the METS sector.

“Southern Innovation is a great example of how small, agile innovators can help big businesses like BHP solve previously intractable challenges.”

Orica keen to collaborate on path to blasting automation

Orica’s Angus Melbourne told a packed Austmine 2019 crowd in Brisbane this week that the blasting specialist is committed to developing automated solutions for both the underground and surface mining sectors and is working with both customers and industry partners to make this aim a reality.

During his speech on Wednesday, Melbourne, Orica’s Chief Commercial and Technical Officer, walked delegates through a number of achievements the company had achieved over its 140-year history, but also looked ahead to how Orica is focused on revolutionising the drill and blast operations of the future.

“Blasting is one of the few processes in the mining value chain that remains largely untouched by automation,” Melbourne said. “As mines go deeper and orebodies become more remote, the case for blasting automation becomes clearer.”

Among a number of benefits of blasting automation were the ability to remove people from harm’s ways, grant access to difficult ore reserves and reduce operational delays, he explained.

“Due to the complexities associated with a typical blast operation, this is no trivial endeavour,” he said.

Melbourne said progress was already being made with Orica’s automation efforts, singling out its Orica’s WebGen™ wireless initiation technology, in particular. Launched in 2018, WebGen improves safety by removing people from hazardous situations and enhances productivity through the removal of constraints previously placed on operations by wired connections.

“Since its release, more than 130 WebGen wireless blasts have been executed globally across four industry segments,” Melbourne told delegates.

Newmont Goldcorp’s Musselwhite mine has been an advocate of the wireless initiation technology, recently saying the blasting tests it has carried out at the Ontario mine were “a decisive step on the path towards full automation of drill and blast operations in the future”.

The wireless initiation technology is leading to the development of new blasting options, according to Melbourne, who said, in the last 12 months, Orica has co-developed more than seven new techniques that are “revolutionising the way our customers are planning and executing their mining operations”.

On stage, Melbourne then played a short video from CMOC Northparkes in New South Wales, Australia, a miner that recently converted its entire sub-level cave copper mine to WebGen wireless initiation blasting; an Australia and world first, according to Melbourne.

He said Northparkes has seen significant improvements in safety, productivity and ore recovery since the transition. Melbourne’s words were echoed later that day when Orica received the Austmine METS Innovation Award for the use of WebGen at Northparkes.

Melbourne pointed to a second collaborative development that was helping shape the company’s blast automation efforts during his time on stage; this time with an original equipment manufacturer.

The company has been working with MacLean Engineering out of Canada to test the first fully-mechanised drawpoint hang-up blasting solution, he said.

Capable of drilling and charging up to eight blast holes remotely, the solution is underpinned by WebGen wireless technology and, once again, removes people from harm’s way.

“Hang-up blasting is a major issue for block and sub-level cave mines around the world,” Melbourne said. “In fact, at any one time, up to 30% of all drawpoints can be unavailable due to oversize material. All current solutions are either high risk mining activities or are highly inefficient to implement.”

He then played a video highlighting this industry-first solution, before remarking: “This is a significant step towards fully-autonomous production in underground mines. It’s an exciting time for everyone involved and is just one example of an industry collaboration to deliver blast automation.”

Melbourne concluded his presentation by saying, in the future, integrated, automated and intelligent systems will deliver the critical data necessary for executing real-time change and quantifiable impact on all parts of the value chain “through an ‘ecosystem of insight’ never seen before in mining.

“To capture the full potential of rapidly-evolving technology will require new ways of thinking, new ways of working, and a new spirit of collaboration across the industry.”

Austmine 2019 to showcase global mining innovations

“Mining Innovation – The Next Horizon” is the tag line for the fast-approaching Austmine conference in Brisbane, Australia.

Taking place at the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre from May 21-23, the program for Austmine 2019 has been developed specifically for those driven by innovation and working within mining companies, mining equipment, technology and services (METS) companies, as well as relevant academia and government, according to the event organisers. Over 800 attendees are expected at the bi-annual event.

“The Next Horizon for the industry will see fundamental shifts in mining technology which will alter the entire value chain, placing an emphasis on current planning decisions to ensure optimal future outcomes,” Austmine’s organisers said.

The three-day program contains over 40 presentations featuring more than 50 experts drawn from six continents, as well as hands-on workshops, panel discussions, and networking opportunities, held in conjunction with the sold-out exhibition, featuring over 90 of the industry’s foremost companies.

Austmine Chief Executive Officer, Christine Gibbs Stewart, said: “This is now the leading mining innovation conference in the world; there are a lot of conferences out there, but nobody is as sharply focussed on innovation as we are.

“We have brought together the premiere thought leaders around innovation, which is quite exciting for us; the fact that we have so many international speakers and attendees is a credit to our previous conferences.

“It demonstrates that overseas miners are interested in what is happening in Australia, and they see Australia leading the way with some of the new innovations and technologies that are entering the market.”

Current confirmed speakers include Rag Udd (Vice President, Global Transformation, BHP), Natascha Viljoen (Global Head of Processing Operations, Anglo American), Marco Orellana (CIO, Codelco), Rob Labbé (Director of Information Security, Teck Resources), Rafael Estrada (CIO & Manager of Information Systems, Telecommunications and Process Control, Antamina Mining), John Welborn (Managing Director & CEO, Resolute Mining), and Frans Knox (Head of Production, BMA Coal, BHP).

The conference themes range from new machinery technology and techniques, including automation and artificial intelligence, as well as the human element of mining, the use of analytics and big data, digital connectivity in mining, and finally sustainability for the industry, encompassing renewable resources and resource management.

The event features the Austmine Industry Leaders’ Dinner and Awards on May 22, which will also celebrate the association’s 30 years of advocacy for the Australian METS sector.

Robotics and automation projects among latest METS Ignited funding recipients

Australia’s Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, Karen Andrews, has announced seven mining supply businesses as the recipients of A$4.1 million ($2.9 million) in innovation funding under the METS Ignited Collaborative Project Funds.

The recipients of the funding will now be able to launch eight collaborative industry projects delivering highly-advanced solutions to a variety of mining challenges and contribute to the growth and capability of the METS sector, according to METS Ignited.

This funding is part of a four-year, A$15.6 million commitment made by the Australian Government to incentivise collaboration and address METS sector priorities. The funding established the METS Ignited Collaborative Project Funds, which support industry-led projects to improve the productivity, competitiveness and innovative capacity in the METS sector.

Today’s announcement at Mineral Technologies, on the Gold Coast of Australia, is the third tranche of funding. METS Ignited received 26 grant applications and has awarded the funds to businesses specialising largely in robotics and automation, data analytics, data platforms, Internet of Things and business and professional services. The recipients are: Mineral Technologies, Premron, Austmine, Roobuck, Process IQ, AMOG (x2) and Magotteaux.

Acting CEO of METS Ignited, Ian Dover, said: “Active collaboration across the ecosystem is core to accelerating commercialisation of innovation and has been lacking in the METS and mining sector, where historically relationships have been in the main transactional.”

“Facilitating such innovation is part of the mandate for METS Ignited. It’s vital we support the application of influential future technologies across the METS sector and maintain Australia’s competitiveness.”

Recipients of the Collaborative Project Funds are required to secure equal or greater investment from an industry partner. As a result, the total value of the eight projects is A$11 million.

The largest fund recipients were Queensland-based Mineral Technologies and Premron, awarded A$1 million each. Mineral Technologies’ automation of the Roy Hill Iron Ore beneficiation plant project automates the gravity separation spiral process used in the mine to optimise the concentration of lower-grade ore into higher value ore for export, METS Ignited said.

Roy Hill CEO, Barry Fitzgerald, said: “I am delighted the government is supporting our partnership with Mineral Technologies – a project that seeks to enhance the operational efficiency of our mine, delivering more high-grade product while reducing waste for the same operational cost.”

The automation of spiral control in the Roy Hill beneficiation plant will materially improve the concentration of ore into high value product for export, according to Roy Hill. More high-grade product and less waste will be produced for the same feed and processing cost, delivering value to both the environment and Roy Hill’s bottom line, the company said. Once proven effective at Roy Hill, the technology can be commercialised and rolled out at similar operations across the world.

“This innovation project will deliver a step-change improvement through real time control of our 720 spirals, enabling our processing plant to dynamically respond to the natural variability of the material it is treating,” Fitzgerald said.

Premron’s Continuous Haulage System (CHS) project, meanwhile, will revolutionise coal mining in underground mines, according to METS Ignited. It eliminates the use of shuttle cars, used to take the coal cut from the wall of the mine to a transfer point further away in the mine (dead time). CHS will see the coal go straight to a conveyor belt and out of the mine.

Other projects that received funding in this round include: sensor technology to monitor the location of people and equipment underground; artificial intelligence technology to emulate the role of a grinding expert; automated sensor detection for oversized rocks; a predictive analytics tool that pinpoints the best time for equipment descaling; a METS career pathway programme; and a device to give more detailed information on the chemistry inside the grinding mill while it is operating.

METS Ignited said: “Collectively, the projects will benefit the mining sector by optimising the value chain, increasing productivity for mining and mineral processing, supporting and enhancing environmental management, and improving operational safety.”

The project fund recipients include:

Automation of the Roy Hill Iron Ore beneficiation plant

  • Recipient: Mineral Technologies
  • Partners: Roy Hill
  • Collaborative project funds: A$1 million
  • Industry investment: A$1 million
  • This project automates the gravity separation spiral process used in the mine to optimise the concentration of lower-grade ore into higher value ore for export.

CHS

  • Recipient: Premron
  • Partners: Gauley Robertson Australia, Kestrel coal mine
  • Collaborative project funds: A$1 million
  • Industry investment: A$1.13 million
  • Continuous haulage will revolutionise coal mining in underground mines. It eliminates the use of shuttle cars, which are used to take the coal cut from the wall of the mine to a transfer point further away in the mine. CHS will see the coal go straight onto a conveyor belt and out of the mine.

Austmine METS career Pathway Program

  • Recipient: Austmine
  • Collaborative Project Funds: A$240,000
  • Industry investment: A$1.76 million
  • This project places university students as interns in METS companies around Australia, increasing the interest level and uptake of graduates into the METS sector

The OVERwatch Platform

  • Recipient: Roobuck
  • Partners: Redpine Signals, Northparkes Mines, University of Wollongong
  • Collaborative project funds: A$600,000
  • Industry investment: A$1.5 million
  • This project develops sensors and software to track the location of people and machinery working in underground mines and ensure that collisions are avoided. This is a complex project as there is limited communication options underground (eg no Wi-Fi).

Remote grinding optimisation and support centre

  • Recipient: ProcessIQ
  • Partners: Orway Mineral Consultants, Jamieson Consulting, Curtin University
  • Collaborative Project Funds: A$620,000
  • Industry investment: A$780,000
  • This project enables grinding experts to interact directly and in real time with grinding circuits on remote mine sites to ensure they are operating at their most productive levels. The project will develop automated artificial intelligence software to emulate the experts as there is very limited supply of this specialist expertise, leading to increased processing efficiency globally.

Automated Oversize Detection

  • Recipient: AMOG
  • Partners: Omniflex
  • Collaborative Project Funds: A$150,000
  • Industry investment: A$220,000
  • This project involves developing sensor equipment that alerts the mine when rocks are too big to process through the crushing and grinding equipment. Blockages in the crushing and grinding circuits are costly and time consuming. Haulage trucks with oversized rocks will be diverted to a separate location in the mine, which avoids stoppages.

Smooth Operator leach circuit process optimisation

  • Recipient: AMOG
  • Partners: Lithium Consultants
  • Collaborative Project Funds: A$220,000
  • Industry investment: A$220,000
  • This project involves developing a predictive analytics tool that allows copper and nickel mines to pinpoint when they should close equipment for descaling. Closing equipment too late or early is very costly. There is a very large global market for this product.

Commercialisation of pulp chemistry monitor for the mining industry

  • Recipient: Magotteaux
  • Partners: Hydrix, Manta Controls, Newcrest Mining
  • Collaborative Project Funds: A$250,000
  • Industry investment: A$310,000
  • This project involves developing a device to give more detailed information on the chemistry inside the grinding mill while it is operating. Grinding and flotation circuits use many chemical inputs in order to extract minerals from the ore. Getting the chemical balance right in the mill and the next stage of floatation is critical to removing as much of the valuable mineral as possible. The percentages of the yield vary between 85% and 95% and a 1% improvement in yield will deliver a very large financial benefit to the mine.